Small wine growers hit hard by pandemic: Richard Esling September 8

This year’s extraordinary circumstances have brought extraordinary challenges to growers across the wine world.

Wine Society 'Help the Producer' Selection SUS-200709-154209001
Wine Society 'Help the Producer' Selection SUS-200709-154209001

Many have been unable to sell their wines as the crisis put an immediate stop to cellar-door sales and shut restaurants, hotels and bars.

The growers who felt the effects most acutely were, and are, small-to-medium sized producers. European winemakers are facing an estimated 35 per cent fall in sales volumes and a 50 per cent decline in value during the lockdown, according to the CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins) Europe’s trade body. A great many producers are now left with stock destined for markets around the world languishing in their warehouses as most sales were shut down.

Recognising the plight of these small but dedicated wine growers, The Wine Society is launching a campaign this week to support some of its key growers affected by the pandemic, with the objective of supporting them through increased sales. The “Backing Our Best Buyers” campaign will run from September 7 to October 7. Using the tag line “Help us to help the people behind the bottles,” members will be offered an extensive range of keenly priced wines from all over the world. Director of Wine, Pierre Mansour explains: “Selling larger quantities helps free up winery space and can help to compensate for lost customers (such as restaurants and hotels).”

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    A total of 26 growers are included in the offer and here are half a dozen wines I can particularly recommend. Chateau La Grave de Bertin, Bordeaux 2018, £7.25 if bought by the case. The Furt family, owners of Château La Grave de Bertin, are having to contemplate selling off an entire vintage for distillation to help support their business: the market price for so-called ‘generic’ Bordeaux has suffered so dreadfully recently that the amount the growers receive on the open market has dropped below the cost of production.

    In Italy, the Grati family has been producing wines in the elevated Chianti sub region of Rúfina for five generations. From the excellent 2015 vintage, Chianti Rufina Riserva Villa di Vetrice is offered at £11.92 per bottle for a case. A saving of £24. Also from Italy, is Passerina Abruzzo Vigna Corvino 2019 made by Rocco Pasetti of Contesa. It is such a scarce local Italian grape that it usually sells out through the nearby network of restaurants in Abruzzo. However, this year, The Society is delighted to help cover the shortfall. Refreshing, citrussy, dry white, only £7.50 per bottle.

    Luís Patrão has established a reputation as one of Portugal’s best young winemakers. He makes his wines in an old warehouse that has been converted into a simple winery, with his wife Eduarda helping with tastings, sales and marketing, whilst keeping busy with their baby son! As a tiny producer, they have been hit particularly hard by the loss of restaurant and bar sales, so discounts are offered to encourage support. Vadio Branco 2018 and Vadio Tinto 2016 both normally at £13.95, offered with large savings on full cases.

    Back to France, The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire 2017 from Gratien et Meyer is delicate and refined fizz. As lockdown hit the world, sales of crémant plummeted 40 per cent after an already hard year in 2019. Buy a dozen and save £26 on an already attractively priced bottle at £12.95.

    For those who are members of the Wine Society, get that order in! For those who aren’t, join. Order Now to Help Out!”